Gore: Potential for Congress climate deal growing

But words are one thing — action is another. Gore said the Obama administration decision on the Keystone XL project is the first test to see whether the two match up.

“I am strongly opposed to that tar-sands pipeline. I think it’s crazy. Again, you have the realpolitik/business logic, but I just think it is morally wrong for us to open a brand new source of even dirtier carbon-based energy when we are desperately trying to bend down the curves,” he said.

Many lawmakers on the left and the right expect President Obama to greenlight the pipeline’s northern leg. That portion requires administration approval because it crosses national boundaries.

The pipeline would bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, and its supporters are promoting it as a jobs and energy security issue. Environmentalists have pushed back against the pipeline because it runs through environmentally sensitive regions and would increase delivery of one of the dirtiest forms of fuel.

Gore also said stopping coal exports from the Pacific Northwest is essential to preventing climate change.

The coal industry is pushing the administration to approve five new export terminals in Oregon and Washington to take advantage of growing Asian markets. Greens oppose the idea, saying it would exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions.

“I understand why a lot of people think it’s unrealistic in the extreme for one of these things to be slowed down or stopped. But you know, if you take that position, then you are inherently saying, ‘Well, it’s not that unrealistic to destroy the future of human civilization,’” Gore said. 

Despite the possibility the administration could approve coal exports and Keystone, Gore said he was “genuinely encouraged” that Obama spoke about climate change in his first post-election press conference last week.

Obama touted his first-term accomplishments, such as finalizing new vehicle efficiency standards and funding for green power projects.

He said policies for the next four years are still being ironed out, adding, “You can expect that you will hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward.”

Still, Gore said those remarks contained little detail about what Obama’s climate agenda portends.

“I really do believe it’s premature to put a definitive interpretation on what it means about his intentions,” he said.